“The truest test of leadership comes during periods of adversity,” said Messier. “When presented with difficult times during the season, Mats Sundin remained committed to his teammates, his community and to the game of hockey. I am honoured to present the Mark Messier Leadership Award to Mats Sundin. He understands the importance of his status in Toronto and his dedication to his community is unmatched. The strength of his character makes Mats a tremendous role model both on and off the ice.”
“I am honoured and humbled to receive this prestigious award,” said Sundin. “I thank Mark for this honour as well as my current and former teammates for their tremendous support. I strongly believe that an important part of being an athlete is to be a great teammate, leader and philanthropist."
Sundin, who joined the Maple Leafs in 1994, has utilized his experience on and off the ice to lead by example. He is one of the team leaders in community appearances and is a fan-favourite at every event.
Mats is a staunch supporter of the Leafs Fund, an entity committed to improving the health and wellness of children and youth in the Toronto community through access to sports and recreation opportunities. Always in attendance at the Maple Leafs' numerous fundraising events, Sundin makes time for his fans and understands the importance of his presence. A champion of the Leafs @ School program, Sundin attended the launch and spoke to children about the importance of physical activity.
Sundin's dedication to keeping young people active also can be seen through his support of the Street Buds program that helps make hockey more accessible and motivates youth to get involved. He also takes a lead role in the team’s relationship with the Hospital for Sick Children, visiting as many children as possible, and is one of the most recognizable supporters of the Canadian Landmine Foundation. He even made an appearance as a cannon doll in the National Ballet’s presentation of the Nutcracker Suite.
Every season, Sundin donates his private suite to the Captain’s Corner program for all Leafs and Raptors home games. Access to the suite is used to recognize and reward children in the Toronto community who have overcome daily physical, mental, emotional, and social challenges.
The 2007-08 season was Sundin’s 17th in the NHL and his 10th as captain of the Maple Leafs. He led the team in goals (32), assists (46) and points (78) and became the all-time franchise leader in goals and points. In 981 career games with the Maple Leafs, Sundin has registered 1,186 points on 420 goals and 766 assists. This past season, Sundin became the 30th player in NHL history to record 1,300 points. In 1,305 career NHL games, he has scored 555 goals and 766 assists for 1,321 points.
The Mark Messier Leadership Award recognizes players for their athletic performance; ability to motivate and influence teammates; a commitment to the community and charitable causes; and a dedication to a professional attitude as a representative of their sport and as a positive role model within society.
Mark Messier, a six-time Stanley Cup champion and 16-time NHL All-Star in his 25 NHL season, is widely viewed as one of the greatest sports leaders of all time. Among his numerous hockey and humanitarian honors, the naming of the Mark Messier Skyway at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey for his 15 years of dedication and commitment to help raise millions of dollars to benefit children with cancer and other serious blood disorders is one of the most special.